City’s own consultants skeptical of LRT launch date, inquiry heard

WATCH LIVE | Day 9 of the survey:

The City of Ottawa’s own consultants on the massive LRT project questioned whether it was wise to open the Confederation Line to the public in mid-September 2019, the train’s public inquiry announced Wednesday. light.

A team of Parsons consultants, who were hired by the city from 2015 to 2019, testified Wednesday afternoon that they thought the trains weren’t reliable enough and maintenance staff were overworked.

Although noting the trains and giving their advice on the LRT launch date were not technically what the Parsons team had been hired to do, they told the commission that they shared their views with the city.

In an email dated Aug. 21, 2019, Mike Palmer told colleagues at Parsons that he understood the test run of the trains was ending the next day.

“I don’t know how many days it was in the end – but definitely not 12!” he wrote, referring to the oft-repeated promise that the Confederation Line should run virtually flawlessly for 12 straight days before the city receives the keys.

Many of us are not sure that there is wisdom given the fragility of rolling stock and signaling.-Mike Palmer, consultant

“There is supposed to be four weeks of training for OC Transpo. I think that will potentially be reduced and so I think it will be on or about September 17th,” Palmer wrote.

‘A number of us are unsure if there is any wisdom given the fragility of the rolling stock and signaling, but others may be able to comment further on this.

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The city has set September 14 as the launch date for the Confederation Line?

The Confederation Line was officially launched on September 14, 2019.

The email also mentions that the equipment to measure the number of trips made by the trains and the kilometers traveled during the test was not working the previous week.

When asked by inquest co-lead counsel Kate McGrann if he had shared his opinion on the LRT’s readiness with the city, Palmer said yes.

Two other Parsons consultants – Jonathan Hulse and Thomas Fodor – also testified that they also shared Palmer’s skepticism about the LRT’s launch target.

Overworked maintenance staff

The inquest heard from a number of witnesses that many participants in the LRT project were well aware that the light rail system, although deemed safe, had reliability issues before it was opened to the public.

Fodor, for example, told McGrann that maintenance staff were “overwhelmed” during the trial period and couldn’t cope with multiple issues — a concern Fodor communicated to the city.

He told the inquiry that Rideau Transit Group and its partners were unable to operate the entire fleet of trains at full service for most of the test days.

“I observed trains arriving at the transfer platform which failed and had to be removed, which delayed the entry of other trains. I also observed train failures on the main line” , did he declare.

“Basically, the fleet that was supposed to be there for the whole period was rarely, if ever, hit. »

Witness testimony during the first eight days of the Ottawa LRT public inquiry shows that many parties knew the Confederation Line had reliability issues before it was launched. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Ottawa’s own lawyer, Peter Wardle, pointed out that none of the consultants were actually involved in scoring how the trial went.

Wardle also produced two daily reports submitted by Fodor to the city during the trial period which showed that the consultant had confirmed that the planned number of trains were “ready to go into service”.

But Fodor held on.

“It’s two days out of the time I was there,” he told the commission.

“As far as I remember, most of the time they couldn’t reach the required fleet. And if they did initially, there were a lot of moves and attempts to replace them with [other] the trains.”

Fodor also testified that trains that would not have been allowed to run during public service were used in trials.

Earlier on Wednesday, the commission saw a graph showing that at least half a dozen “main events” were still happening daily during the last week of testing in August 2019. Another graph indicated that there were 211 major events in the week of September 2 to February 7, 2019 — just one week before the Confederation Line opens.

Many events were related to cameras and videos on the trains and platform, or information display panels, but others involved brake and fuel issues.

He was well known to all parties.– Bertrand Bouteloup, Alstom project director

Another of the commission’s co-leaders, Christine Mainville, asked Alstom’s project manager, Bertrand Bouteloup, if it was well known that the revenue department would not be perfect and that there would be incidents.

“Yes, it was well known to all parties,” he said.

Passengers wait for the next train during delays following the full launch of the Confederation Line in fall 2019. (@danavaughan001/Twitter)

Mayor and Manconi make ‘calculated guess’

In an earlier email dated July 26, 2019, Palmer wrote to his colleagues that he understood the Confederation Line would be declared substantially complete within days.

“I assume the city (read mayor and JM) assumes by calculation that the remaining issues can be resolved within the 12 day trial and 28 days of OC Transpo on the trains,” he wrote. .

The “JM” in the emails is former OC Transpo chief John Manconi.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, center, walks the Confederation Line with a number of other city officials, including former chief transportation officer John Manconi, left, days before the city takes possession of the LRT. (Joanne Chianello / Radio Canada)

Palmer – who, among other things, was a TTC executive – went on to say he would likely do the same if he had “absolute clarity” from RTG on the status of the project, but said he feared that information is withheld. from the city.

He clarified that the message is his personal opinion and that he “would appreciate if this email was not shared outside of Parsons.”

Palmer also jokes that he won a $100 bet he had with a few colleagues and city counterparts on when the Confederation Line would be completed, but only because he had the last date.

Wardle, the city attorney, suggested the email was merely a casual note, but Palmer disagreed.

“The style may be casual but it’s a serious message” about the state of the system, he said.

On Thursday morning, the commission will hear from Richard Holder, an official from the Urban Railways office who also took part in the trial.

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